Food and Nutrition

Articles relating to food and nutritional needs for hermit crabs.

FAQ What foods are good and bad for hermit crabs?

Hermit Crabs are beach scavengers and they can and will eat a wide range of things. General rules:

Photo by bird1234 (youtube)

FAQ What foods are good and bad for hermit crabs? – Coenobita perlatus eating garbage – Photo by bird1234 (youtube)

Avoid chemicals, pesticides, table salt, moldy foods, plants that are toxic to animals.

For hermit crab nutritional needs and the foods that provide them, download the nutritional food chart as a PDF by clicking in the gray box below.

Hermit Crab Nutrition Table
Hermit Crab Nutrition Table
270.6 KiB

Written by Kerie Campbell

Fruits – Fresh or Wrinkly? I’ve read alot about fresh fruits being in their diets, which I use alot of BTW. But I’ve read alot about people putting in fruits that are old and wrinkling up. Is one better than the other?

Answer by: Kerie
Posted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 7:52 am
The crabs like it fresh, and they like it wrinkled. Mine also like stuff that’s gone mushy from being thawed after freezing. Alternating fresh and older fruit is a good way to vary their diet. The sugars and other compounds like terpenoids in the fruit will tend to change composition and break down for different flavors as the fruit ages. If it’s citrus fruit, though, you should always let it sit until it is wrinkly. The peels contain substances like limonene that act as insect repellents. Limonene breaks down quickly in the fruit peel as it ages, so letting it go wrinkly makes it much more attractive to the crabs. Citrus has compounds in the pith and stringy stuff that are extremely beneficial to crabs, such as beta carotene, and so citrus should be offered them on occasion, in order to promote a healthy diet.

What foods are good for hermit crabs?

Almonds, crushed
Amaranth (Ancient grain – calcium)
Anchovy oil
Apple and natural, unsweetened apple sauce
Barley (calcium)
Bell peppers (red, yellow, orange, green or purple)
Bee pollen
Blackberry leaves
Bone Meal (no additives, preservatives, sold as a supplement for people)
Broccoli and leaves
Brown rice, soy, wheat or 7 grain cereal
Brown rice
Carnation flowers
Carrots (carotenoids)
Carrot tops (vit. E)
Cat Tails
Cauliflower and leaves
Celery leaves
Chamomile flowers
Chicken bones
Chicken, cooked and unseasoned (smash the bone for marrow access)
Cholla wood
Clover blossoms and leaves
Coconut and coconut oil
Cod liver oil
Collards (calcium)
Cooked eggs
Cork bark
Corn (on the cob, too)
Cranberries (dehydrated)
Cuttlefish bone, powdered
Dandelion flowers, leaves and roots
Egg, scrambled or soft boiled
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fish flakes w/out chemical preservatives
Fish Oil
Flax seeds (crushed)
Flax seed oil (small amounts infrequently)
Frozen fish food (esp. algae, krill and brine shrimp)
Garbanzos (calcium)
Grape Leaf
Grapevine (vines and root)
Green and red leaf lettuce (not iceburg; dark green)
Green Beans
Hempseed Meal
Hibiscus flowers
Hikari products: brine shrimp, krill, crab cuisine, sea plankton (no preservatives, ethoxyquin, copper sulfate)
Hollyhock flowers
Honey (organic, or at least locally produced, for anti-microbials)
Honeydew Melon
Irish Moss
Impatiens flowers
Jasmine flowers
Kelp (calcium)
Lobster with crushed exoskeleton
Marigold flowers (calendula)
Marion Berries
Mint (but not peppermint!)
Most organic baby foods
Mulberry (fruit, leaves, wood)
Nasturtium flowers
Nettle (wilted)
Oak Leaves and bark
Olive and olive oil (extra virgin)
Oysters (zinc)
Pansy flowers and leaves
Parsley (calcium & vit. C)
Peanut butter (avoid sugar, corn syrup and hydrogenated oils)
Pecan bark
Plain calcium carbonate powder
Popcorn (unseasoned, unflavored, unbuttered)
Potato (no green parts, including eyes)
Quinoa (New World grain – calcium)
Raisins (no sulphur dioxide)
Red raspberry leaves (highest bio available calcium source + vit. C and trace minerals)
Rolled Oats
Rose petals
Rose hips (high in Vit. C)
Royal Jelly
Sand dollars
Sardines (calcium)
Sea biscuits
Sea fan (red or black)
Sea grasses
Sea salt
Sea Sponges
Sesame seeds (crushed)
Shrimp and exoskeletons
Spirulina (complete protein and chlorophyll source; highest in beta carotene)
Sprouts (flax, wheat, bean, alfalfa, etc.)
Squash and blossoms
Strawberry and tops
Sunflower Seeds (crushed), flowers and leaves
Swamp cypress wood (false cypress, taxodium sp.)
Sweet potato
Tuna (zinc)
Turnip greens (calcium)
Violet flowers
Wasa All-Natural? Crispbread (Oat flavor)
Watercress (vit. A)
Wheat grass (magnesium)
Wheat (calcium)
Wheat germ (B vitamins)
Whole Wheat Couscous
Worm Castings

Other herb flowers-The tiny flowering blooms of the following spices are edible: anise, basil, bee balm, chives, coriander (cilantro), dill, fennel, garlic, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.


Beetle Grubs
Cicada exo skeletons
Feeder cockroaches
Super worms

* This food list is mainly adapted from Summer Michealson and Stacey Arenella’s book, The All-Natural? Hermit Crab Sourcebook, and expanded on by Julia Crab and others

What foods are bad for hermit crabs?

While it is true that crabs are scavengers with a wide repertoire of foods they can eat, there are many plants and foods that just should not be fed to a crab. The foods on this list are to be avoided. Some are toxic, some are insect repellents or used as insecticides, and some the crabs just won’t go near, such as lemon — lemon won’t hurt them, but they certainly won’t eat it.

Aconite (Monk’s Hood)
African violet leaves
Alder bark
Aloe vera (interferes with potassium absorption)
American Hellebore
Avocado leaves
Bird of Paradise Flowers
Bottlebrush flowers
Carnation leaves
Castor Bean
Cherimoya Seeds
Citrus (leaves and branches to be avoided; part of the evergreen family. The fruit is fine)
Compost (unless 100% organic)
Crown of Thorns
Cube Plant
Custard Apple (young fruit)
European pennyroyal
Evergreen (pine, cedar, juniper, etc.)
Golden Pothos
Green hellebore
Holly Berries
Ivy (of any kind)
Juniper Berries
Larkspur seed
Lemon Balm (Sweet Melissa)
Lemon Grass
Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)
Morning Glory
Oxeye daisy
Papaya seed
Parsley Seed (fruit)
Peace Lily
Pencil Tree Cactus
Pine or cedar wood or needles
Prickly juniper
Pride of China fruit
Prunus species trees (apricot, bitter almond, cherry, cherry laurel,
nectarine, peach, plum) Fleshy fruits are edible, everything else
contains a cyanide-like compound and is fatally toxic, including
seeds, wood, leaves, bark and flowers.
Red Emerald
Sago Palm
Stargazer Lily (Lilium x Stargazer)
Sweet Flag
Tea Tree
Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora)
Wild Angelica fruit

From: The San Diego Turtle and Tortoise Society
And other sources

We highly recommend keeping worm castings and greensand on hand and in your tank daily. Both are highly nutritious and are loved by hermit crabs.

Awesome video of a huge  gathering of Coenobita perlatus eating garbage

FAQ Should I feed my hermit crab meat?

This is a compilation of forum posts from our old site.

Hermit crabs devouring a piece of unseasoned steak-photo courtesy of Stacy Griffith

FAQ Should I feed my hermit crabs meat?Hermit crabs devouring a piece of unseasoned steak-Photo credit Stacy Griffith

Rachelrmf posted:

I really was not all that big on the meat thing untill i came here and read that so many of you feed alot of meets. So i have alway put a little crab or shrimp or tuna in for them, but just every once in a while. So I was wondering is it on a daily basis that you should feed the meat. I have been changeing out fresh every day but can’t really tell about how much of it they are eating because they like to party at night so the food is everywhere. And also how often do you change out the differant meets. I don’t want to upset their little tummys and i know they are not close to dogs, but with dogs it can upset them a little. Well as far as that goes i guess how often do you change out all your foods. For me every week they get 3 sets of choices greens, leaves, seaweed and then on fruit mango, fresh coconut,bannana and on meat oyster,tuna,sardine treats are nuts and rosehipp. Should i be adding in better things for them? I do have to say they eat better than i do as far as fresh wholesome foods! Lol

SUE wrote:

rachelrmf, this is a good question, and one that is continually evolving based on what is observed and coming to be known in terms of what constitutes a robust diet for crabs. I am going to provide a breakdown of the specific food groups and what they are generally good for. Note that I will not have included ALL the foods in the category, and some categories overlap in one or 2 areas too. I try to offer daily a food from each group. I used to also leave home made dry kibble, worrying that they do not all eat at the same time or each thing (which they don’t) but I have a lot of crabs, and I have learned for my herds, the general proportions to offer. I have stopped leaving dry goods in at all times, and find that their foraging is better, and I waste less food! I still feed them dry goods daily, just minimally, and I usually sprinkle it on something that it will stick to like juicy fruit or vegetables. This is something I do because I have tested and offered these foods to the crabs in trial alone before!

Scientists evaluate that crabs use a natural selection imprint to prevent themselves from eating only one type of food source and thus harm themselves with not getting all food resources needed. They are also imprinted to ignore foods that have been smelled or eaten within a 9 -14 hour period of time, and one of the reasons relying on commercial foods is so dismally inadequate. They are not of the type of animal that relies only on one type ofr food like protein, or vegetation or calcium, etc. They must have a robust combination of all of them! Many of the foods must support their ability to metabolize to their environment (heat, humidity, light, growth) and they require a balance of ALL these types of food resources (some more at specific times like pre-molt, or PPS) in order to thrive.

These groups are classed in the following way and I will include why:

Protein and lipids: this is for energy to grow, forage, reduce competition or minimize cannibalism which more frequently occurs in captivity.

Foods in this class are:

meats, fish like silver sides, gold fish, clams, oyster; bone marrow (all meats including poultry), nut meats (many also fall in the omega fats group) salmon skin(including fat). Some vegetation like avocado meat (only) and bamboo stalks. (which also provide Cellulose, high energy)

Carotenoids, zeaxanthin and cellulose: these foods are necessary to assist the crabs metabolic functions of calcium absorption, processing of minerals, and coloring an individual crab has (darkens pigments). It also improves the crab’s immune system and nervous system functionality.

Foods in this class are:

tannin rich leaves, bark, cambium (inner branch skins) of plants like oak, maple, mangrove root, some perennial leaves; fresh fruits and vegetables that are orange, yellow, red or dark green (i.e. squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, natural corn, mango, blue berries, etc); many flower petals (dry), spinach, foliage, bean sprouts, seaweed: spirulina in particular, reptile moss (from pet store) etc.

Carbohydrates: these foods are quick energy foods that will help your crab by immediately fueling them but saving their “stored” reserves necessary for metabolic function.

Foods in this group include:

grapes, apple, honey, wheat germ, oatmeal, dried fruit (raisins mostly due to Copper sulfate use in others), banana, pineapple, citrus pulp (inner membrane of skin considered cellulose).

Omega fats: this food group is very important and is totally missed in commercial food formulations unless they are frozen foods! These are necessary for nervous system, exo-skeletal health and processing of carotenoids and other minerals. If there are deficiencies in this group it is typically exhibited by molt death (where you are uncertain), a mildewy appearance to the exoskeleton (they look dehydrated), and they are not active! Foods in this group overlap proteinous groups.

They include:

Coconut, walnut, whole fish (like a dead gold fish), fish skin, animal fat, olive oil, some grass seeds, seeds, peanut butter, etc. There is a mirade of these suitable, some found in fresh flower petals like roses, sunflower, crab apple blossom, etc. Take a look at the edible plants list at Epicurean Hermit!

Calcium: it is considered superior to provide more than one natural form of calcium! Calcium of course is used mainly for growth of the exoskeleton. Calcium without the support of light and carotenoids will not be properly absorbed by the crab! The acceptable form for supplementation outside of natural forms is Calcium carbonate powder ONLY! Foods containing calcium, will also provide some proteins as well.

Here are the main foods ideally used:

freeze dried brine shrimp, meal worms, blood worms, krill (fresh, frozen or freeze dried), shrimp tails, sand dollars, powdered oyster shell, cuttle bone, broccoli heads, milk.

extra resources relating to the above: and (this site lists specific food groups for each food)

Steam all shell fish prior to offering to hermit crabs!

FAQ Are gold/feeder fish safe to feed hermit crabs?

FAQ Are goldfish safe to feed to hermit crabs?

FAQ Are goldfish safe to feed to hermit crabs?

This is a compilation of forum posts from our old site.

To date we have not confirmed whether diseases fish may have can be passed onto hermit crabs.

Sat Mar 05, 2005
Ladycrab wrote:
Bought some gold fish for the hermies. Froze them last night just need to know if they need to be prepared any special way before serving them???

Julia_Crab wrote:
There’s a bit of controversy afoot about the goldfish method right now. Freezing is a great way to kill any bacteria that might have affected the crabs, if any, though. I’m still not convinced that crabs can be affected by bacteria in the food, but I’m waiting to hear back from a scientist about it.

Thaw your fish and soak them well in some ocean water, then just serve. This is one food you may want to remove promptly in the morning, as it can get smelly. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t eat it the first time, either. Sometimes it takes them a couple of tries to catch on.

kvh4 wrote:
I would rinse them in declor water and then soak them like Kali_ma said. I know that store employees are SUPPOSED to treat the water these fish are in, but I know for certain that some stores don’t care, and so a lazy or incompetant employee can mean feeding clorine to your crabs.

They hire just about anyone these days….

ladybug15057 wrote:
Freezing does not kill all bacteria’s, but boiling for 5 minutes does.
(but won’t remove any chemials used that may be on/in the fish)

Julia_Crab wrote:
The theory that I share with a few others is that aggression problems are mainly caused by nutrient deficiencies, though we are uncertain which one or ones.

I heard about this about a month ago from some other crabbers on another forum. I told a few people about it, and tried it myself.

It’s not for the faint of heart, though. The preferred method is to murder the feeder goldfish by putting them in a bowl of the crabs’ ocean water. The theory is that the action of the fish drawing the salt through their systems makes it more attractive for the crabs to eat. When the fish are floating belly up, serve them to the crabs, being sure to remove them within 24 hours or so.

I still feel slightly guilty doing this, as the fish basically suffocate. So I’ll tell you the alternative method, which is to put the bag of feeder goldfish in the freezer until they “go to sleep.” Then soak in salt water and feed to the crabs. It takes longer for them in the freezer, several hours, I’m told. It usually takes less than 20 minutes to kill them in the salt water.

I’ve been told this isn’t humane. I can’t really argue with that point of view on the one hand. However, these fish are all doomed, either to be suffocated or put to sleep for our crabs, or fed alive to arowanna and oscars. So it’s really a choice you have to make for yourself. Like Angel, several people report no more aggression in the tank between crabs, doing this feed once every 7-10 days.

As a note, my crabs always eat the eyes, then the brains, then , if they’re still hungry, they go for the intestines. The same effect might be achieved from feeding fish heads and guts from the fishmonger. But it would definitely be much more smelly and messy. With goldfish, you can choose the size you want.
Don’t put it in the crabs’ water bowl, just some water you’d make for them, LOL. Sorry I wasn’t clear.

Just put the whole fish in the food dish. Sometimes I sprinkle them with spirulina first.

kvh4 wrote:
I know that everyone has their hermit crabs’ best interest at heart, but I have to say that this sort of practice seems very hypocritically cruel.

If someone had a hermit crab in a habitat that was too dry, and it’s gills were being damaged so that it died by suffocation, we would all be very upset, but somehow doing it to a goldfish is okay?

I get the feeling that it would be very easy to get fish guts from your local fishmarket, so this whole suffocating a goldfish thing is very un-necessary.

Vanessa wrote:
I have decided not to feed my crabs goldfish, but I do agree that feeding them fresh fish is recommended. I prefer to give them from the fishmongers (seafood store) than from a pet store.

I prefer to offer the food in a buffet tub since I’ve h ad problems with crabs dragging their food around the tank and burying it for later
I prefer to offer a small fish or the head of a fish rather than a goldfish. I have kept goldfish as a pet, and I feel bad about killing them myself. I have also heard some negative things about giving feeder fish to hermit crabs. If I was to give my crabs a small fish to eat, I would breed them myself or at least quarantine them for a while. More on that further on.

Fresh seafood I have offered my crabs:

o Fish / Fish head (raw or steamed)
o Small fish (bait fish, caught in clean waters)
o Sardines (raw or canned in spring water)
o Prawn heads and full prawns (raw or steamed)
o Scallops (raw or steamed)
o Cuttlefish (raw or steamed)
o Crab Meat and Shell (cooked)
o Cockles
o Conch
o Mussells (raw or steamed)
o Squid (raw or steamed)
o Marinara Mix – all of the above (raw or steamed)

I was talking with MrsPoppyPuff on this subject, and she suggested fresh fish as used in Sashimi (sushi style based on raw fish, cut in thin slices). I also offer my crabs the very fresh raw fish for sale in The Bento Box in Wollongong (near Sydney)

Not only is this fish very fresh, but it comes in finger size pieces or thin slices. Perfect for offering to hermit crabs
I might have to check with my local seafood store and look out for a goldfish-sized fish to offer as an alternative. Garfish and Whitebait are two types of fish sold for human consumption which are small enough, but I have a feeling that the large gelly eyes of goldfish would be more appetising than that of garfish or white bait.

I know that the crabs are welcome to the head and eyes of any fish that is cooked for me. I cannot stomach eating a fish while the eyes are staring up at me

***Note: This thread started in March 2005 and continued through May 2005. There has to date (7-29-09) still been no replies as to whether any diseases can be transmitted to hermit crabs. But about a couple of years after this thread was done an outbreak of bacteria happened among some hermit crabs due to oysters.

The Power of Protein

Coenobita compressus enjoying fish, peanut butter and veggies - Photo by Amber Miner

The power of protein – Hermit crab Coenobita compressus enjoying fish, peanut butter and veggies – Photo credit Amber Miner

Land Hermit Crabs are arthropods. Arthropods have a stiff cuticle made largely of chitin and proteins, forming an exoskeleton that may or may not be further stiffened with calcium carbonate. They have segmented bodies and show various patterns of segment fusion (tagmosis) to form integrated units (heads, abdomens, and so on). The phylum takes its name from its distinctive jointed appendages, which may be modified in a number of ways to form antennae, mouthparts, and reproductive organs.

Land Hermit Crabs in the wild eat a lot of protein in the form of dead fish, prawns, seaweed, cuttlefish as well as other forms of protein including plants. Some have been known to eat soft crabs, clams, worms and barnacles. Gourmet food for a hermit crab!

In Lisa Loseke’s table of Hermit Crab Nutrition she states that “High protein level of 50% of total food is required for growth.” and that “sources of protein listed includes “Nuts, Seeds, Beans, Eggs, Spirulina, Fish Food Flakes, Cat Food, Dog Food, or Hermit Crab Food should always be a part of each nightly food offering. Spirulina (dried seaweed) is 48% protein by calories.” ( Dall & Moriarty 1983)

Foods should be ethoxyquin and copper sulphate free.
Additional information:
Hermit Crab Nutrition Table

SoyStache: Sources of Protein: Plant-based sources vs. animal sources
Plant-based protein and animal protein listed


Dall, W. and Moriarty, D. J. W. (1983). Functional aspects of nutrition and digestion. In: Mantel, L H (Ed.) The Biology of Crustacea. Vol. 5. Internal Anatomy and Physiological Regulation. Academic Press, New York, 215-61 bibliography pp. 251-61.